Security forces have begun “massive redeployment and repositioning” to give flesh to President Aquino’s directive on Monday to crush New People’s Army checkpoints following Saturday’s guerrilla attack that wounded the wife of former Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr. and killed her driver and bodyguard in Gingoog, Misamis Oriental province.
In an interview with the Inquirer, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas disclosed on Tuesday that the redeployment of the Philippine National Police would be made “in coordination” with the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
“We will be working through the joint area command that is a structure between the AFP and the PNP all over the country, most especially in the NPA areas,” said Roxas.
“We will put more people. There will be greater patrol presence,” said Roxas, explaining that only the government had the right to install checkpoints along roads and highways.
“If the government agents are the ones patrolling the streets and highways, the (NPA) will have a hard time setting up their own checkpoints,” he said.
He said the government has enough warm bodies to patrol hotspots designated by the Commission on Elections in next month’s elections.
Described as “areas of concern” in the May 13 elections were the provinces of Abra, Pangasinan, La Union, Ilocos Norte, Pampanga, Cagayan, Nueva Ecija, Cavite, Batangas, Masbate, Western Samar, Misamis Occidental, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Lanao del Norte.
The PNP Region 5 Command has dispatched to Masbate 126 more policemen to prevent further bloodshed. At least nine politically motivated killings were reported in the province last month.
Masbate closely monitored
“I have instructed the PNP chief to inform the RD (regional director) and PD (provincial director) that I am monitoring Masbate closely,” said the President on Sunday.
The military on Tuesday said a Marine battalion, possibly from Jolo province, would be sent to Misamis Oriental and other nearby areas to augment Army troops, not necessarily in response to Saturday’s attack on Mayor Ruth Guingona in a remote village in Gingoog but to maintain peace and order in the elections.
“(The additional battalion will) not necessarily be deployed in Misamis. I think it will be a bigger area that will assist Army troops in the peace and order situation,” said Maj. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz, the chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command.
Maj. Leo Bongosia, spokesman of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, said that the deployment of the additional troops to Misamis Oriental had been planned even before the NPA attack on the 78-year-old wife of former Vice President Guingona.
Campaigners turned back
Bongosia quoted 4th Infantry Division chief Maj. Gen. Nestor Añonuevo as saying that the presence of the additional troops would stop any hostile plans to disrupt the balloting.
In the latest incident reported on Tuesday, Senior Insp. Rudy Cordero, chief of police of Tulunan town, told a radio station in Cotabato City that guerrillas at a roadblock on Monday turned back campaigners of 3rd district congressional candidate Dr. Rod Escudero as they were entering Barangay (village) Bituan.
“About 10 heavily armed men, who covered their faces with T-shirts, flagged down the multicab carrying the campaign aides,” he said. No one was harmed.—With a report from Edwin Fernandez, Inquirer Mindanao